IN YOUR PRIME: How to create structure after retirement

Professionals typically look forward to retirement and the freedom that comes with it. The notion that commuting and deadlines will one day be a distant memory is enough to make anyone excited for retirement. But when the day to leave the daily grind behind arrives, many retirees admit to feeling a little anxiety about how they’re going to find structure.

Retirement is a big transition, and Robert Delamontagne, PhD, author of the 2011 book “The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement,” notes that some retirees experience anxiety, depression and even a sense of loss upon calling it a career. Some of those feelings can undoubtedly be traced to the perceived lack of purpose some individuals feel after retiring. Without a job to do each day, people can begin to feel useless. Overcoming such feelings can be difficult, but finding ways to build daily structure can make the transition to retirement go smoothly.

Find something to truly engage in. Professionals who truly enjoy their work tend to be fully engaged, so it’s no surprise if such individuals have a hard time adjusting to retirement. Some may suggest volunteering can help fill the void created by retirement, but researchers with the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College have found that only those individuals who are truly engaged in their post-retirement volunteering enjoy the psychological benefits of such pursuits. So before retirees dive right in to volunteering as a means to creating structure, they should first exercise due diligence and find an opportunity they’ll find genuinely engaging.

Embrace the idea of “bridge employment.” “Bridge employment” is the name given to the trend that has seen retired individuals take on part-time or temporary employment after they have retired from full-time working. COVID-19 has no doubt skewed post-retirement working statistics since the World Health Organization first declared a pandemic in March 2020, but a 2019 survey from the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute found that 27 percent of pre-retirees with at least $100,000 in assets planned to work part-time in retirement. Even part-time work can provide enough daily structure to help retirees feel as though each day is not just a free-for-all.

Make a concerted effort to be more social. Volunteering and working are not the only ways to create structure in retirement. A concerted effort to be more social can help retirees fill their days with interactions with like-minded individuals who may be experiencing the same feelings. Join a book club, a local nature group that goes on daily or semi-daily morning hikes or another local community organization. These are great ways to build structure and meet new people. Retirees can create social media accounts to find local community groups that cater to their interests. Even if it seems hard to believe, plenty of retirees are seeking to create structure in retirement life, and social media can make it easier to find such individuals in your community.

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